Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein
Stranger Things Vol. One, and Stranger Things Vol. Two (Lakeshore)
Reviewed by Neph Basedow, Fri., Sept. 16, 2016
As viewers summer-binged Netflix's Eighties-riffed series Stranger Things, the sci-fi thriller's soundtrack grew as prominent as its Goonies 2.0 cast. Episodes hooked fans beginning with the season 1 theme, iconic Stephen King typeface flooding the screen to ominous synthesizer forewarnings. To concoct a 1983-suited score to accompany their VHS-vibed show, directors Matt and Ross Duffer tapped one-half of local quartet Survive. On soundtrack volumes one and two – released separately this month – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein nod as bluntly to pioneering Krautrockers Tangerine Dream as they do to horror master John Carpenter, whose poster to The Thing gets more screen time in Stranger Things than some of the cast. The first soundtrack installment treads on the theme's layered creeping, moods waxing and waning timbre and tone, from the euphonious depiction of unsullied 12-year-olds ("Castle Beyers," "A Kiss," "Biking to School") to downright terror ("Photos in the Woods," "The Upside Down," "Lights Out"). Volume Two echoes the series' progressively perilous shift toward the supernatural, a track like "Danger Danger" pivoting from the evocation of bike-riding best buds toward the debut of a demoniacal monster in a parallel universe. Leitmotifs rear, subtly parroting the title theme like a meticulously crafted couture collection. "Breaking and Entering" spurs a maniacal Sega Genesis-worthy send-off, while closer "Stranger Things" extends the same riff in a celestial surge. In July, Survive's Facebook page bore a couple hundred "likes." That count now hovers around 30,000. The group's sophomore LP, RR7349, drops at month's end, its nine tracks favoring melody over atmosphere. Like composers Mike Post (Law & Order), Danny Elfman (The Simpsons), or Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks), Survive axis Dixon and Stein's heterodox hard-wiring ameliorates TV's ambient takeaway.